NextUp Town Hall: Recapping our First-Ever Virtual Event
By Jamie Hancock
March 20, 2020
Hundreds of sports organizers came together to discuss all things business and community in the time of COVID-19. Here’s what happened.
Shortly after it was clear that the Coronavirus would force athletes off the court, off the field, and into their homes, we began hearing many of the same things from our partners. How do we navigate this unchartered territory? How will we keep our business running? What should we be doing to communicate with coaches, parents, and players?
We realized that we had an opportunity to bring these organizers together, answer some of their pressing questions, and most importantly, remind them that we’re here for them. So we quickly got to work planning our first-ever NextUp Town Hall—a virtual event that would give people the opportunity to share their concerns and ideas, and hear from a group of industry leaders across clubs, camps, and tournament operations.
The response to the event blew us away. More than 300 people tuned in—a reminder that sports continue to matter even when we’re not practicing or competing—and we received almost 50 questions in real time, highlighting the need for a source of authoritative information geared at the organizer community. The conversation was informative, uplifting, and even humorous at times. Here were some of the biggest takeaways.
Find new ways to connect and play.
Now’s the time to bring your community online. This could mean anything from encouraging coaches to connect with players via Zoom or Google Hangouts to setting up an esports league, like Fullerton is working on, or inviting players to participate in a giant FIFA tournament, like Frates is working on. It’s important that whatever you do is engaging, competitive, and fun, Fullerton said. (An easy way to invite friendly competition? Ask a neighboring club to get involved and match the best teams up against each other, like Frates has.)
Control your message.
Communicating with your parents, players, and coaches is critical—but it’s important to make sure that they’re all hearing the same thing. Frates suggested sharing updates with coaches first, keeping them informed and in the loop before going out to parents and players. If possible, it’s also helpful to align with other organizations in your community, she said, explaining that parents are often more comfortable with a given decision when they see it echoed by other clubs or leagues. “It’s all about creating a united front.”
Tell the whole story—especially when it comes to refunds.
Parents or players asking for refunds may not realize that this money is going to other people or fixed costs. Remind them that you’re still paying for your practice space even though the season has been cancelled, Frates said. Explain that you’re still trying to pay your coaches. This is a great time to reinforce your organization’s value proposition.
Have a plan A, B, and C.
Graziano said that while they’re currently operating under the assumption that their camps will take place as planned this summer, it’s important to set aside time for contingency planning. What would a camp look like with fewer players or no spectators? These are all things to consider, she said. When it comes to contingency planning, Frates encouraged organizers to use this time as an opportunity to take out a line of credit. “You want a rainy day fund,” she said. “It’s something that all small businesses and nonprofits should do.”
Empower your coaches (even if you can’t pay them).
This is the time to look at what you might need done and see if your coaches can help, Bahrambeygui said. “Do you need your facility repainted? Is that something you’d normally pay someone else to do?” Fullerton added that now is the time to help coaches bring their programs online. Have them post drills and challenges on social media and encourage your followers to engage by sharing photos as they complete each activity, she said. And don’t forget to remind them that their players are still depending on them, Frates said. Can they do their evaluations virtually right now? Can they reach out just to talk?
Focus on building your brand.
Don’t be afraid to pivot, Fullerton said, explaining that they’ve had to change their social media strategy—which has been built around sharing game photos and awards celebrations—now that seasons are on pause. Today, they’re focusing on community engagement: liking posts, sending direct messages to players, and doing whatever they can to stay visible.
Build relationships and stay human.
Think of this time as your opportunity to build lifetime customers. This is a great opportunity to share your club’s origin story and post headshots of your coaches on social media, Fullerton said. It can also make a huge difference to just get on the phone with members of your community who are stuck inside, homeschooling their kids, and looking for an outlet—someone to talk to. Bearman added that now is the time to identify the people who are on your front line and make sure you’re connecting with them.
Tackle your bucket list.
An organizer’s to do list is never ending, and it’s hard to find time to tackle projects that aren’t directly tied to your day-to-day operations. For Bahrambeygui, that means developing an education program for coaches, but that could also mean redoing your website, rewriting some of your policies, reevaluating your vendors, or setting up a social media presence.
We’ll continue to host Town Halls weekly, so make sure to follow LeagueApps on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and visit leagueapps.com, for updates and links to RSVP.